In the past week, Israel has announced plans to build a massive sports complex at the Golan Heights, to house the country’s professional teams, as well as to host international sporting events.
The announcement came amid a push by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to become a permanent member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The announcement was made in the Palestinian sports delegation to the International Athletics Union (IAU), which will be represented at the IAU General Assembly in the near future.
In a statement on Monday, PA sports minister Saeb Erekat said the PA would not participate in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo unless the international body recognizes the Palestinian state as a permanent observer.
This announcement comes after the PA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations and other international bodies.
Israel, a country of nearly 100 million people and one of the richest in the Middle East, is the biggest contributor to the IAA, which has been struggling to maintain its relevance in the face of the economic and social challenges facing the Palestinian people.
Erekat announced the new sports complex on Tuesday, saying the plan would be a step towards promoting sports in the region and the world.
The IAA had previously proposed building a sports complex for the 2022 World Cup, but the PA has been reluctant to participate in such an event, citing the financial strain it will be placing on its already strained budget.
Ekatz noted the PA was currently preparing for a three-year budget of about $1.6 billion, with a goal of having a budget of $5.5 billion in 2020, down from its previous budget of more than $6 billion.
Ehrin, the PA sports official, told The Jerusalem Report on Wednesday that the new complex would have facilities for 40,000 people and that it would include a track, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a basketball court, soccer fields and a soccer stadium.
The PA had previously announced plans for a sports facility for the World Cup but was forced to backtrack after the Hamas-affiliated Fatah movement demanded that it be cancelled.
However, it is unclear what impact the construction would have on the PA’s bid to become the permanent member, as the IUA has not formally approved the PA bid.
The international body has not ratified the new MOU, which would mean the PA could not participate at the 2019 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Palestinians had previously applied to become an observer state of the IOC, but Israel’s decision to become one is the only way that Palestinians could join the International Basketball Federation (IBF) or the World Hockey Federation (WHL), two of the most prestigious international leagues in the world, which are also located in Israel.